Dental implants are an amazing way to restore form and function to your mouth! Many things can happen over your life to cause you to lose a tooth. Getting a tooth knocked out while playing sports or working is a common occurrence. Not taking good care of your teeth and losing them to decay is also frequent. The increase in sugary drinks and acidic snacks has made tooth decay more prevalent in the United States, even in very young children. Sometimes, diseases can also make it more likely that a tooth will eventually need to be removed. As an example, research suggests that diabetes can decrease the body’s natural defenses against bacterial infection, which can lead to poor oral health.
Dental implants can be an absolute life-changer, because they restore a tremendous amount of confidence, they makes your smile look fantastic, and they even increases the comfort of your mouth during everyday things like chewing on gum or biting into an apple! So what exactly is a dental implant, and how do they work?
Unlike a bridge, crown, or dentures, a dental implant mimics the form AND function of a tooth. Natural teeth have roots that fix the tooth to the bone of the jaw. The root accomplishes many tasks, but one of the most important is that it keeps the tooth firmly in place. A dental implant does not use the tooth’s natural root, and instead has a small titanium rod that is inserted directly into the bone.
Titanium (the same metal that is used for building airplanes and bicycle frames) is used because it is incredibly strong! It also has a unique property that is fantastic for implants – titanium bonds to human bone through a process called osseointegration. Osseointegration is just a fancy word that means that bone will grow right up to the surface of the titanium without any scar tissue, cartilage, or ligament fibers. A Swedish researcher named Per-Ingvar Brånemark discovered how well titanium fuses to bone, during a study to monitor blood flow in rabbit bones. Luckily, he immediately realized the amazing potential this had for restoring a strong tooth structure. He personally placed titanium implants into the first human patient in 1965. The procedure was so successful that when the patient died 40 years later, the original implants were still functioning perfectly!
Attached to the top of the titanium rod is a specialized structure called an abutment. An abutment’s shape is typically based on the application of the dental implant, but it is mostly used to provide a way for a dentist to fix the artificial tooth to the titanium in the bone.
Finally, the last piece is the actual artificial tooth. This is very similar to a normal crown, but it is specially designed by dental professionals so that it can attach securely to the abutment. Usually, this is the only part of the implant that anyone will ever see when you smile.
Oral surgery can be a scary thing, especially if you do not know what happens. Luckily, most patients have a great experience with dental implants! Initially, we work very closely with your primary dentist to talk about any special needs. We have great relationships with the dentists in Pocatello, and we always consult together because every patient case is unique.
After consultation, we schedule an appointment with you to do an examination. During this time, we will often take x-rays of the mouth, to identify any structures or problems that are not visible to the naked eye. We then review records with you, and discuss treatment options so that you have a clear understanding of the benefits, and also any risks or issues that are unique to your oral health.
During the surgery, you will be anesthetized. This is another fancy way of saying we will give you medication that puts you to sleep, and blocks you from feeling any pain. This is important, because the mouth is one of the most sensitive areas on the body! We make sure that your experience is comfortable and most importantly, safe. Both Dr. Jepsen and myself are licensed by the state of Idaho for general anesthesia, and we have received an incredible amount of training and education for this. Effectively, you will go to sleep and then wake up after the procedure is totally completed!
After the surgery, we will follow your progress and ensure that you have plenty of time to heal. For most people, the total healing time for a dental implant is between three and six months. During this time, you can have a temporary crown placed over the implant if you wish. The gums may be uncomfortable for a few days, but typically they will heal very fast. It is the osseointegration (there’s that big word again!) that takes longer. It is very important to maintain proper oral hygiene, so you will want to brush your teeth and floss!
Southeast Idaho has many excellent dentists, and we receive many referrals. We have been providing dental implants at Facial & Oral Surgery for decades, and this is one of our most common services. Our patients love them! It is a great feeling to smile again without a big gap, and eating feels much better when you can chew like you would with a natural tooth.
Below are some good quality links and articles that will help you learn more. If you are interested, please contact us and we will gladly give you more information!